The Advance-Titan

Fill the Backpack helps former inmates get back on their feet

The UW Oshkosh Student Social Work Association partnered with Goodwill’s Community Circles of Support program on a Fill the Backpack Drive which ended Dec. 1.

SSWA treasurer Kylie Kostka said the drive benefits those who were formerly incarcerated and allows them a smoother reintegration back into society.

“Community Circles of Support is a program by Goodwill that helps inmates transition from incarceration into society,” Kostka said. “The drive is to collect backpacks and fill them with hygiene products that CSS can give to individuals transitioning from incarceration into society.”

Kostka said she takes part in charitable work because she recognizes the impact it has on people’s lives and that being involved with sswa offers an opportunity to help people.

“Social Work’s focus is largely to improve society as well as individuals in society,” Kostka said. “Students of social work feel it is important to volunteer and be involved in drives and fundraisers in order to help support society and individuals.”

Secretary of SSWA, Samantha Kirchner, said the profession of social work is built around the dignity and worth of a person no matter their current situations, and this is obvious in the Fill the Backpack Drive.

“In this case, a person has served their time and is ready to get back out in the community and live the rest of their life,” Kirchner said. “That person might not have much, but getting them personal hygiene products helps make that transition as smooth as possible. This will ultimately benefit everyone because it gets that person back into the workforce and it gives them a normal life that much faster.”

Public service during this time of year is particularly important as everyone seems to want to give a little extra cheer, Kirchner said.

“With it being the holiday season, everyone’s hearts seem to be a little bit fuller. Why not share some of that love with people who could use some extra cheer?” Kirchner said. “Ring a bell for the Salvation Army, donate a can of vegetables to a food pantry, donate to Toys for Tots. There are tons of small things that anyone can do.”

Kirchner said students can get involved in all kinds of community service around campus if they just look around a bit.

“There are plenty of opportunities out there, especially in our local community,” Kirchner said. “You don’t have to look far to find an organization that could use an extra hand.You’d be surprised at how grateful people are when you donate a few hours of your time, even if it is on a monthly basis.”

Kirchner said the turnout was good for the drive and that she is hopeful the impact on the recipients lives will be good.

“We are very thankful to those that were able to donate to this event.” Kirchner said. “We hope that the contributions help many people.”

Senior Sarah Rowley said the culture of giving on campus is often forgotten during this time of the year because most students are preoccupied with finals.

“I think that clubs and organizations could partner with businesses and non-profits such as Goodwill to run on-campus programs, and club sponsorship of volunteer programs can help bring these opportunities to campus,” Rowley said. “Clubs and organizations should go out of their way to volunteer off-campus. I think this is where Greek life excels-each fraternity and sorority picks a non-profit to support.”

Rowley said on-campus initiatives that allow students to volunteer their time are perfect for college students on a budget.

“Initiatives like Fill the Backpack are a great way to get involved,” Rowley said. “As a college student, I personally don’t have a lot of money or resources to contribute, so I greatly appreciate opportunities to help in ways that I am able”

Rowley said the holiday season is a great time to give back to the community but giving back should not be limited to just the winter season.

“I truly believe that the holiday season is a time for us to reevaluate what it means to be a caring human being, and it means so much to give back to your community,” Rowley said. “I think the best way to show your holiday spirit is to volunteer your time. However, the public perceives that volunteering is only a wintertime activity. In reality, though, these opportunities run all year.”

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Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Fill the Backpack helps former inmates get back on their feet